Upshur County Chief Tax Deputy Heather Sparks addresses the commission about changes to the tax lien/land sale process. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

State of West Virginia to assume control of sheriff’s annual tax lien/land sale

BUCKHANNON – The State of West Virginia will be taking over the Upshur County Sheriff’s annual tax lien/land sale.

Sheriff Virgil Miller and Chief Tax Deputy Heather Sparks attended the Sept. 8 Upshur County Commission meeting to explain the changes, which were made in Senate Bill 552, amending West Virginia Code Chapter 11, relating to tax sale process. State legislators passed the measure during the 2022 Regular Session, and it went into effect June 10, 2022.

Sparks said some changes are currently still in flux, but she wanted to share what she already knew with the commission.

“We have to send out certified letters, as we always do – we usually have to send them out 30 days before the sale – but we are not going to sell the land this year,” Sparks said. “They’re going to be certified to the State of West Virginia on Nov. 1, so that means we have to have all of our certified letters done Sept. 30.”

She said 2021 taxes must be paid by Oct. 31.

“If they are not paid Nov. 1, I will be certifying that to the State of West Virginia and at that point, they can be redeemed but they will have to go through the State of West Virginia,” Sparks said. “They’ll have to call the auditor’s office and go that way, there’s nothing we will be able to do for them.”

The properties will be redeemable from Nov. 1 to March 1.

“Once March 1 hits, they’re subject to be sold by the state; the state representatives from the State Auditor’s Office are going to be coming to every county in the state somewhere between March 1 and July 1,” Sparks said. “I don’t think they know for sure how it’s going to work, but all sales will be before July 1.”

In years past, people had 18 months to redeem properties before a new owner was eligible to purchase them, but now it has been reduced to three months or 120 days.

“We’re doing the research right now, and I see a lot of people pay between Nov. 1 and Nov. 15 because I think that’s when people just got accustomed to paying their taxes – in November,” Sparks said. “I’m so worried about all those people because they can’t do that this year. They have to pay them before Oct. 31, so I really want to get the information out there.”

She said this new process is still developing, but after her office submits all materials to the state Nov. 1, people will have to deal with the state directly.  

“I know I have to certify everything to the state by Nov. 1 and at that point, they’re out of our hands and they’re going to have to pay through the state,” Sparks said. “It’s a huge undertaking for the state to be doing this; I’m surprised honestly because I don’t think they realize themselves how much work this will be. Every county in the State of West Virginia holds these land sales; we usually have 100 to 150 properties and we’re a small county.”

Sparks hopes to have more details after another conference next week.

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